The MacDonald Tobacco Company (1969)
With the success of King Edward came competitors, including Swisher International, offering to acquire his company. Swisher owned the King Edward trademark in the U.S. (as well as other countries).
Around the same time, Joe’s Sr. son, Joseph Horvath Jr. joined the company after having graduated from high school and then apprenticing at the Swisher factory in Jacksonville Florida.
Joeseph Horvath Jr. with a King Edward display
Selling the company to Swisher was not to be for Joe Sr. However, he wanted to ensure that if he were to sell, each of his employees, as well as his family members who had been working with him, could have a job at the new company.
In 1969, Joe Sr. sold to a large cigarette manufacturer, Macdonald Tobacco Inc. (now JTI-Macdonald Corp.), who had become well known for Export A cigarettes. They called the newly formed business Macdonald Ontario Tobacco Co. Ltd., with Joe Sr. as President, Joe Jr. as V.P., and Leslie Albert Sr. (an engineer who had married Joe’s Sr.’s daughter), it’s Chief Engineer. Previously, Leslie Albert Sr. was working as an engineer at a plastic injection moulding company, but was soon convinced by Joe to leave to work in tobacco and cigars as he was mechanically inclined to oversee the mechanized on goings of the company.
Joe Jr. signs the document of sale to The MacDonald Company. Joe Sr. (back row on the left with a pipe) watches the procedure
The plant was soon relocated to a new location in Toronto on Sunrise Avenue in a building that was extended to 120, 000 sq. ft. to accommodate production.
Three years later, Joe Horvath Sr. passed away, and in 1975 Macdonald Ontario Tobacco was sold to RJR Reynolds, who then moved the company to Montreal.
The man to start it all: Joseph Horvath Sr.
House Of Horvath Established (1977)
In 1977, Joe Jr. and Leslie Albert founded ‘House Of Horvath, naming the new company in honour of Joe Sr. – the “real” entrepreneur as Joe Jr. would say.
They set up shop in Toronto on Ossington Avenue (relatively close to the original factory), bought 6 cigar-making machines, hired back many of the production staff from both Ontario Tobacco Company and Macdonald-Ontario, and began anew.
Joe. Jr. talks shop with associates on the factory floor
Both founders knew they wanted something that would separate their company from the rest of the Canadian market. Their vision was to bring Canadians a cigar that was rare, unique and affordable. So, when it came time to launch their flagship brand, Bances, they decided to make it with Cuban tobacco.
For about 35 years following the Cuban tobacco embargo, Canada was one of only two countries allowed to manufacture a Cuban cigar outside Cuba.
Fortunately, Joe Jr. had great relationships with several tobacco growers. Joe Jr. bought his Cuban tobacco from Heller Meerapfel (a Belgium-based supplier of wrapper tobacco to Fuente, La Aurora and many others) and obtained the rights for the name Bances from his friend Frank Llaneza of Villazon (maker of U.S. Punch, Bolivar, Partagas and Hoya).
Heller Meerapfel (right) signs documents with then Cuban Minister of Industries, Ché Guevara
In buying quality seco Cuban tobacco from Meerapfel in 200lbs cartons for Bances, they first began making corona-sized cigars.
The factory floor at 77 Ossington